United must play on counter attack to cause Bayern problems

Bayern Munich players warming up - Lahm, Ribery, Robben

But Owen Hargreaves, a Champions League winner with both Manchester United and Bayern Munich, insists Reds' midfield MUST step it up

A look at the two club's seasons tells you, on paper at least, that Bayern Munich should ease past Manchester United and into the semi-finals of the Champions League. But as the cliche goes, football is not played on paper.

United have endured a torrid start to life after Sir Alex Ferguson, racking up a long list of unwanted records during a campaign which is going to herald the club's lowest league finish since the 1989/1990 season when the Reds were 13th.

By contrast Bayern have enjoyed domestic dominance, wrapping up the Bundesliga title with seven games to spare and the Bavarians could still defend the treble that they won last season.

While Hargreaves admits he thinks the German champions will ultimately progress, the former England midfielder believes that with the right plan United could cause them problems.

``United's struggles have been well documented and Bayern are flying. Obviously United stand a chance but it's hard to see anything other than Bayern going through,`` Hargreaves told the Manchester Evening News.

``They are favourites and have so much fire power. They are brilliant in every position - from goalkeeper to defence, midfield and attack. Bayern are very well organised and exciting to watch. But it'd be foolish to totally dismiss United. 

``United to be more competitive against Bayern. If they can get at them early on like Arsenal did in the last round, then who knows.

``David Moyes needs to come up with a strategy. It's an opportunity to play more direct, don't just play out-and-out football. They should play on the counter-attack. (Manchester) City did that very well against United last week.``

But Hargreaves feels it is Bayern's superiority in midfield which will ultimately prove the difference.

Against Olympiacos in the last round United relied on 40-year-old Ryan Giggs to roll back the years. He played alongside Michael Carrick with Antonio Valencia and striker Danny Welbeck used in the side positions.

Marouane Fellaini has failed to live up to his £27million price tag and, like Tom Cleverley, has endured a difficult season, while record signing Juan Mata is cup-tied.

Meanwhile, Bayern boss Pep Guardiola has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal in the middle of the park and this season has been able to call on Javi Martinez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos, and Thiago Alcantara, as well as dangerous wide-men Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

The 33-year-old said: ``United's midfield has come in for criticism but it's not just the midfield. There are 11 players on the pitch but they are unsettled in midfield.

``Michael Carrick and the rest have been rotated in various positions. You had Cleverley on the right against City, then (Shinji) Kagawa and others have swapped around. They need to find some consistency. Bayern do outmatch them in midfield but all of the players need to take responsibility.

``The start of Fellaini's United career hasn't gone as well as he would have wanted it to or as well as Moyes wanted it to. When you pay that kind of money, you expect an impact.

``You know at United, the likes of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes set the standard in midfield and it's been difficult for new players to reach that standard but I don't think you can blame any one individual for all the problems. It's not fair to point out one individual - players all over the park need to improve.``

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